Events and things to do in Sussex - May 2017

Festival of Food and Racing, Goodwood Racecourse (Photo by Harry Elliot)

Festival of Food and Racing, Goodwood Racecourse (Photo by Harry Elliot) - Credit: Archant

Our guide to the best events in and around Sussex this May.

Brighton Festival - 6-28 May

Acclaimed recording artist, poet, playwright and novelist Kate Tempest is this year’s guest director. Kate’s programme celebrates what she calls the ‘Everyday Epic’ – art that helps us connect to ourselves and others, explores our individual stories and differences, and encourages audiences to take a walk in someone else’s shoes. In her words: “Art is social. It should be a part of life. No big deal – just life itself.”

Many of her interests, passions, and inspirations are explored in an eclectic line-up spanning theatre, dance, visual art, film, music, debate, comedy and spoken word.

See Kate live on stage at Brighton Dome Concert Hall (6 May, 6.30pm) for an early evening special full of music and spoken word, giving an insight into Brighton Festival, Tempest-style.

This year’s festival opens with the Children’s Parade, led by the Hot 8 Brass Band who will be bringing some New Orleans style to Brighton’s streets.

Box Office: 01273 709709

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Constable and Brighton - Now until 8 October

Brighton Museum & Art Gallery

John Constable stayed in Brighton with his family between 1824-1828, spending much of his time walking along the coast and the Downs. This exhibition traces his family life in the fashionable seaside resort, the impact of the work he made here and the locations that inspired him.


Brighton Fringe - 5 May-4 June

Featuring a dizzying array of art forms, the Brighton Fringe is the largest annual arts festival in England, promoting local talent and the arts. This year’s programme includes a record-breaking 970 shows and events across the city, including the first ever Dutch Season (18 May-4 June), and the return of late-night Fringe City (2 June).


Artists’ Open Houses Brighton and Hove - 6-28 May

About 200 houses and studio spaces across the city open their doors over the four weekends of May to exhibit the work of more than 1,500 artists and makers.


Foxhole Gin - 15 May

Foxhole Spirits and Brighton’s finest cocktail bar ‘The Plotting Parlour’, are hosting a special event to celebrate the successful launch of Foxhole Gin’s second batch. Local gin lovers will have the opportunity to taste the new batch of Foxhole Gin – the first ever gin to be distilled with wine made from English-grown grapes picked from Sussex vineyards – and enjoy some expertly crafted gin based cocktails and delicious canapés in the beautiful surroundings of The Plotting Parlour’s upstairs bar. Tickets are limited – gin fans are advised to book early to secure a table.


The Great Escape - 18-20 May

Europe’s leading festival for new music returns to Brighton with a cutting edge line up showcasing more than 400 up-and-coming artists from all over the world. Spotlight shows feature Rag’n’Bone Man and Slaves.


Charleston Festival - 19-29 May

Highlights include a lecture by Professor Stephen Hawking, winner of The Charleston-EFG John Maynard Keynes Prize; prize-winning authors, including Richard Ford, Helen Macdonald, Sarah Perry, Colm Toi?bi?n, Philippe Sands, Elif Shafak, Ann Patchett and Elizabeth Strout; Nick Clegg MP and child prodigy violinist Min Kym are guests of honour at the second Charleston Festival Dinner; John Simpson in conversation with Christina Lamb; Barry Humphries shares his passion for literature and music; and Colm Toi?bi?n discusses re-imagining stories from classical Greece with Robert Icke, producer at the Almeida Theatre.



Grace and Danger - Artworks by Julia Wagner - Now until 4 June

Proud Country House in Stanmer House, Brighton

Exploring the beauty, strength and spirit of one of history’s most symbolic and magnificent creatures with artwork across multiple disciplines, including sculpture, painting and drawing, showcasing the powerful and moving relationship between man and horse.


Nick Bodimeade: New Landscapes - 6-27 May

Zimmer Stewart Gallery, Arundel

Nick Bodimeade returns with a solo exhibition of paintings and original prints looking at the landscape. The views portrayed are instantly familiar to those who know the back roads, waterways and woodland areas of Sussex.


Montcrieff-Bray Gallery - 13 May-17 June

Woodruffs Farm, Edgean, near Petworth

Summer Sculpture Show: A wide range of work on show – small-scale sculpture in the gallery and in the garden, large-scale works both abstract and figurative – many of which have been commissioned specially for the exhibition.

John Hitchen and Anthony Garratt Exploring the Land: Two Ways of Seeing. This joint exhibition explores the way two artists have responded to the landscape of Sussex, both of them painting en plein air in an expressive spontaneous manner. John Hitchens’ work in the exhibition spans a 45-year period from the 1970s to the present day and presents a retrospective of his evolving style. Anthony’s paintings were all completed over the last year.


Ravilious & Co: The Pattern of Friendship - 27 May-17 September

Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne

Based on new research this exhibition of the artist and designer Eric Ravilious (1903-1942) coincides with the 75th anniversary of his death. It explores the significant relationships and working collaborations between Ravilious and an important group of friends and affiliates.

The exhibition includes many of Ravilious’ key works shown alongside both well-known and less seen works by his contemporaries.



Fracked! - 1-6 May

Theatre Royal Brighton

7.45pm. Alistair Beaton’s provocative new comedy takes us to an idyllic English village threatened by an energy company intent on drilling for shale gas. Anne Reid plays Elizabeth, a retired academic who finds herself transformed from obedient citizen to angry protestor. While her increasingly grumpy husband (James Bolam) longs for the quiet life, Elizabeth soars to fame via social media. Desperate to get planning permission, hard-nosed PR men team up with a corrupt local councillor to persuade the villagers that fracking is a good thing. Elizabeth’s having none of it, and mounts the barricades. Wednesday and Saturday matinees 2.30pm. Tickets: £16.90-£42.90.


Reginald D Hunter - 3 May

The Hawth, Crawley

8pm. Stand-up comedian on tour with his brand new show, Some People V Reginald D Hunter. Tickets: £25.


Caroline, Or Change - 6 May-3 June

Minerva Theatre, Chichester

1963. Lake Charles, Louisiana. Caroline Thibodeaux is an African-American maid earning 30 dollars a week working for the Jewish Gellman family. She is a single parent and the mother of four children.

Eight-year-old Noah Gellman visits Caroline in the basement as she works, washing and ironing. But when the boy begins leaving loose change in his laundry, his stepmother Rose devises a deterrent with revealing and far-reaching consequences.

This Olivier Award-winning musical mixes blues, soul, Motown, classical music and Jewish folk songs to create a beautiful, uplifting and deeply moving portrait of America at a time of momentous social upheaval spurred by the civil rights movement. Sharon D Clarke stars in the title role. Tickets from £21.


Rich Hall’s Hoedown - 6 May

The Hawth, Crawley

8pm. Well known for his appearances on BBC’s Live At The Apollo, Have I Got News For You, and Never Mind The Buzzcocks, Rich Hall and his band of virtuoso musical friends present an evening of music and stand-up comedy. Tickets: £18.50.


The Play That Goes Wrong - 8-13 May

Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne

7.45pm. The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society is putting on a 1920s murder mystery, but everything that can go wrong... does! As the accident-prone thesps battle on against all the odds to reach their final curtain call, hilarious results ensue. Wednesday and Saturday matinees 2.30pm. Tickets: £17.50-£29.50.


Ricky Gervais - 9-10 May

Brighton Centre, Kings Road, Brighton

7.30pm. Ricky Gervais returns to the stage with his first stand-up tour in seven years: Humanity. Age restriction: 16 years plus. Tickets: £36.25.


Driftwood - 11-14 May

Casus Circus, Theatre Royal, Brighton

Sensational Australian circus group Casus (Knee Deep, Brighton Festival 2013) elevates circus to a form of silent theatre in which momentum alternates with stillness, strength with fragility, and emotion with humour. In this colourful and turbulent concoction, Casus brings a blank canvas to life and reveals our innate need for human contact. Times vary. Tickets: £19.15-£24.15.


Paul Lewis - 14 May


Bach Partita No.1 in B flat major BWV825

Beethoven Piano Sonata No 4 in E flat major Op 7

Chopin Waltz in A minor Op 34 No 2

Chopin Waltz in F minor Op 70 No 2

Chopin Waltz in D flat Op 64 No 1 ‘Minute Waltz’

Weber Piano Sonata No 2 in A flat major Op 39

3pm. The brilliance of one of today’s most celebrated pianists is given full rein in the exceptional acoustic of Glyndebourne in a programme bursting with lyricism and breathtaking virtuosity. Tickets: £10-£30.


Kathryn Rudge - 14 May

Glynde Place, near Lewes

4pm. Young English mezzo-soprano, Kathryn Rudge, a recent graduates from the Royal Northern College of Music, presents a song recital of works by Schubert, Tosti and Elgar. The second half features songs by British composers Quilter, Coates, Novello, Britten, Murray and Bridge. She is accompanied by pianist James Baillieu. Tickets: adults £30, under 16s £15.


Leo Sayer - 18 May

The Capitol, Horsham

7.30pm. British music legend Leo Sayer in concert singing his greatest hits. The VIP ticket includes a meet and greet with Leo, a photo opportunity and a signed tour programme. Tickets: £28.50-£75.


Glyndebourne Festival 2017 - 20 May-27 August

The festival presents the world premiere of a brand new opera based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, composed by Brett Dean and featuring a cast of outstanding singers including Allan Clayton, Barbara Hannigan and John Tomlinson. Other Festival highlights include the UK’s first-ever production of Hipermestra, a work by the influential baroque composer Francesco Cavalli, and a new production of Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito conducted by Glyndebourne’s music director Robin Ticciati. The season is completed with revivals of Verdi’s La Traviata, Donizetti’s Don Pasquale and Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos. Tickets from £10.


Jools Holland & His Rhythm and Blues Orchestra - 24 May

White Rock Theatre, Hastings

7.30pm. Jools Holland performs tracks spanning his entire solo career as well as songs taken from his new duets album, Sirens Of Song, released November 2014. Also featuring Ruby Turner, the soulful tones of Louise Marshall, the drums of original Squeeze member Gilson Lavis and special guest Chris Difford. Tickets: £38.50-£43. VIP packages £53 (includes seats in front two rows of raised stalls, a glass of champagne on arrival and access to the VIP bar).


Lucy Worsley: Jane Austen at Home - 26 May

Connaught Theatre, Worthing

7.30pm. Dr Lucy Worsley is passionate about making history engaging to the widest possible audience.

Her new biography, Lucy Worsley: At Home With Jane Austen, takes a new look at Jane Austen’s life from the perspective of her bi-centenary. It considers what home meant to Jane, and tells the story through the rooms, spaces, possessions and places which mattered to her. Tickets: £20.


Wonderland - 30 May-4 June

Theatre Royal Brighton

7.30pm. Wonderland is an enchanting musical adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Starring Wendi Peters as the Queen of Hearts and Kerry Ellis as Alice. Thursday and Saturday matinees 2.30pm. Tickets: £21.40-£51.40.



Bluebell and Wild Flower Walk - 28 April

Bateman’s, Burwash, Etchingham

10.30am-12.30pm: Explore the estate with the ranger at this most beautiful time of year. Discover the magic of spring as you follow the trails and fields through Rudyard Kipling’s little bit of England. £5 per person, booking essential. Call 01435 882302.


Spring on Seaford Head - 12 May

Sussex Wildlife Trust

10am-12.30pm. Enjoy a wonderful spring walk, taking in iconic views of the Seven Sisters, with the Sussex Wildlife Trust. The walk at Seaford Head will be led by Sussex Wildlife Trust expert Michael Blencowe, looking for migrant birds such as the wheatear, emerging butterflies such as the grizzled skipper and the green hairstreak and other wildlife. Meet in the car park next to South Hill Barn (Grid ref: TV 504980) – the nearest postcode is BN25 4JQ – for a 10am start. This coastal walk will involve some slopes. All are welcome and no booking is necessary. Sussex Wildlife Trust members free of charge – non-members are asked for a donation. Contact phone number on the day is 07827 830891.


Museums at Night - 17-20 May

During the festival, hundreds of museums, galleries and historic spaces all over the UK will open their doors after dark to put on an impressive and diverse array of special night-time events – gallery gigs, art happenings, twilight screenings, all-night sleepovers, nature walks, stargazing or simply to offer the chance to experience some of the UK’s cultural venues, historic houses and museums in a new light.


A Festival of Food & Racing - 25-27 May

In association with Great Taste. The three-day Festival of Food and Racing features a Great Taste market, with award-winning, artisan producers and suppliers offering their finest fare. Organic produce from Goodwood Home Farm is showcased on the East Parade Lawn, with chefs’ demonstrations giving an insight into how to get the best from the estate’s pork, beef, lamb and cheeses.


Elderflower Fields Festival - 26-29 May

Pippingford Park, Ashdown Farm, East Sussex

Elderflower Fields is a wild weekend of discovery and inspiration for adventurous families.

Now entering its sixth year, the festival is designed especially for families. It’s an exciting and unique experience that opens children and their parents’ minds to new opportunities in sport, music, the arts, the environment and food in the great outdoors.


Battle Bug Hunt - 27 May-4 June

Battle Abbey, Battle, East Sussex

10am-5pm. Discover the mini beasts of the battlefield. Go beyond the battlefield walk and explore the special half term nature trail. In the abbey, take a seat for storytelling, and join in with activities and crafts. Cost: adult £11.20, concession £10.10, child £6.70, family £29.10.